Karamoko Dembele’s opportunity with the first-team looks like a goer, and the youngster has been touching on his time training with the squad.
Celtic will face Hearts on Sunday in the final Premiership game of the campaign. A win and the Hoops will guarantee a minimum six-point gap between themselves and second place. Anything else, however, would just drain morale heading into next weekend’s Scottish Cup final.
But in a slightly surprising twist, Lennon has confirmed that Dembele could be in the squad for Sunday. The youngster has only been plying his trade with the reserves since February, but could still be given his big chance this weekend at Parkhead.
And speaking in this week’s Celtic View (Volume 54, Issue 41, Pages 34 and 35), Dembele has revealed that he’s been training with the first-team in the past, and spoke about those experiences.
“It’s good to be in that environment and experience it, because it’ll help me get used to the demands of first-team football and know what to expect. Getting used to men’s football will take time. It’s a big step up and I’m happy to get that experience now, because it means I won’t feel so uncomfortable around it.
“The squad have been really good with me. Olivier Ntcham and Timothy Weah have been great with me during those sessions. They have talked to me and made me feel welcome. I want to have the opportunity to play with the first team so I can prove myself.
“If I made my debut with the first team before the end of the season, that would be amazing. Training with the first team has helped me learn so much. You can learn something from every one of the players and coaches.”
A tad too early for first-team action
Celtic clearly rate Dembele highly, and so they should. He’s a tricky customer with the ball at his feet, and can dribble past most players that the Reserve League has had to offer.
But he did struggle in the two recent youth cup finals at Hampden and Celtic Park. Dembele still needs to be allowed time to grow and not simply rushed into the first team to see what he’s got.
The idea of him coming up against defenders such as Christophe Berra, John Souttar, or Michael Smith is a tad intimidating. Hearts are one of the most physical teams in the league, and won’t think twice about getting stuck into the youngster.
If he is to make his debut, it will surely come from the bench in any case. Celtic have to make sure the game is won before introducing the youngster, as three points this weekend remains important.
His first-team training should stand him in good stead though. Celtic fans will be eager to now see what all the guss is about if he gets his big chance.